Tuesday, November 14th, 2017

Voters in Alabama want to elect Roy Moore, a judge who was twice removed from the bench for violating court orders and, as it turns out, a former skeevie perv, to the U.S. senate. Well, about half of the voters do; the other half want to elect a democrat, which is apparently almost as unthinkable as electing a guy who cruised the mall looking for teenage dates when he was in his thirties.

Moore denies the allegations of the half-dozen women who say he molested them when they were teenagers, as well as the statements from police, city clerks and others who say it was an open secret around town that Moore liked his women young. Moore was eventually banned from the mall and the YMCA because he was making such a pervy nuisance of himself to the girls and the rest of the folks there who were just trying to shop. But never mind that.

I honestly don’t care if Alabama sends a dirty old man to the senate. Let them send who they want to; if they’re all right with the idea of being remembered for electing a senator who was widely known as a lecherous skeeve who hung out at the mall leering at teenage girls, or worse, well, that’s their own account.

The other senators don’t have to deal with him or even speak to him if they can’t abide a letch, although I have the funny feeling that won’t bother them too much.

skeevie perv | 6:02 am CST
Category: yet another rant
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Saturday, November 11th, 2017

Our President, on the record, kissing Russia’s ass over and over and over:

“He [Putin] didn’t meddle. He said he didn’t meddle. I asked him again. You can only ask so many times. I just asked him again. He said he absolutely didn’t meddle in our election, he did not do what they are saying he did. … Every time he sees me he says, ‘I didn’t do that,’ and I really believe that when he tells me that, he means it. But he says ‘I didn’t do that.’ I think he is very insulted by it, if you want to know the truth. Don’t forget. All he said was he never did that, he didn’t do that. I think he is very insulted by it, which is not a good thing for our country … I think he is very, very strong in the fact that he didn’t do it. And then you look and you look at what’s going on with Podesta, and you look at what’s going on with the server from the DNC and why didn’t the FBI take it? Why did they leave it? Why did a third party look at the server and not the FBI? You look at all of this stuff, and you say, what’s going on here? And then you hear it’s 17 agencies. Well, it’s three. And one is Brennan, and one is whatever. I mean, give me a break. They’re political hacks. So you look at it, and then you have Brennan, you have Clapper and you have Comey. Comey’s proven now to be a liar and he’s proven to be a leaker. So you look at that. And you have President Putin very strongly, vehemently says he had nothing to do with that.”

And here’s our president, on the record again, describing how he sold his soul to China in exchange for dinner:

“I do have a very good relationship with [Xi Jinping]. It’s the biggest state entrance at the biggest state dinner they’ve ever had. By far. in China. He called it, ‘state plus.’ In fact, he actually said, ‘state plus plus,’ which is very interesting.”

Or how about our president, on Twitter this time, professing his love for the despotic leader of North Korea?

Why would Kim Jong-un insult me by calling me “old,” when I would NEVER call him “short and fat?” Oh well, I try so hard to be his friend – and maybe someday that will happen!

This shameless bootlicker is the president we have today. How anybody can look on this man with pride is beyond me.

ass-kisser | 9:57 am CST
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Saturday, February 11th, 2017

It seems this would be an especially appropriate time to talk about why I believe rounding up undocumented people and deporting them is so revolting to me.

Right out of the gate I’m going to refuse to use the term “illegal immigrants” or its shortened form, preferred by lunch-room lawyers and pundits, “illegals.” People aren’t illegal. Their actions can be illegal, but people themselves never are. Describing a person as illegal has got to be about the most revolting way you can possibly treat them. I’m going to stick with “undocumented” because my experience tells me it’s the most accurate way to describe them.

Here’s why: We Americans were raised to believe we are citizens because we were born here, but that is no longer true. We are citizens only if we can prove we were born here, which a shocking number of American-born people can’t do, or at least I think it’s shocking. One is shocking. If only it were just one. I go to work every day to help American citizens prove they are who they say they are. It’s literally in my job description.

The standard of proof is usually a state-issued driver’s license or identification card. When I was just a lad, it was pretty easy to get a driver’s license. I filled out an application, I took a test to demonstrate my knowledge of the rules of the road, and voila! I was licensed to drive. But now that a driver’s license is more than just a license to drive, every state of the union requires you to show documented evidence of your birth, usually a certificate issued by the state. If you lost your birth certificate or never had one, you can get a replacement, but the state usually requires you to show photo ID. How’s that for Catch-22?

Just a note here: For a lot of American citizens (way too many, again), birth records simply don’t exist. There are various reasons for this, but the most common are: the state lost the records (fire, flood, incompetence), or the parents didn’t record the birth, sometimes because the parents didn’t believe in or bother with the legal ins and outs of life, but often because they were so poor they didn’t have the resources to travel to the county seat. If you were one of those people, you could record your birth now by going to court, which takes time, money, and the stamina to jump through a lot of bureaucratic hoops.

It doesn’t end with your birth certificate, by the way. To get a driver’s license you also have to prove your identity, which is different from proving your birth. Most people show a Social Security card to prove their identity. If you don’t have one, guess what you have to show the Social Security Administration in order to get one? See “Catch-22” above.

What I’m getting at is that there are way more undocumented Americans than you know. By the letter of the law that I hear practiced daily by lunch-room lawyers and television pundits, these Americans reside here illegally, because they have no documents to prove they were born here, and a lot of them would not be able to produce documents if you gave them all the time in the world to get them, because they don’t have the resources to do so.

This is relevant to the conversation about people who come to America from other countries without documents because the only thing about their situation that is different is, they weren’t born here. They came here because they wanted a better life for themselves or for their children. That is literally the American dream. Know-it-alls who say immigrants are welcome but only if they jump through the bureaucratic hoops set up to do it legally are speaking from the position of Americans who were born here.

It’s a great privilege to be born in America. You are instantly a citizen. You don’t have to do anything at all to be one. You can literally coast through every step of your life, skip school, duck out of work, do nothing at all for your community or society at large, and still be a citizen. Or, you can excel. Either way, there’s no test, or there wasn’t until you had to show your papers to get a driver’s license. (You watch; eventually American-born citizens will be swept up in these “enforcement actions” for the sole reason that they didn’t have the required documents.)

To the naturalized Americans who jumped through the hoops, good on you. You applied, you paid the money, you took the test. I admire your determination to be a naturalized citizen. I also admire anyone who has the determination to walk here from Central America, then work the rest of their life cleaning toilets in a hotel or deboning chickens in a processing plant so their children can live a longer, fuller life. Whether or not they got naturalized or got a green card, American dream achieved. Documents don’t make us Americans. Determination to live a better life in a better country makes us Americans. Kicking people out of the country doesn’t make it better.

documented | 12:19 pm CST
Category: Life & Death, random idiocy, this modern world, yet another rant | Tags:
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Monday, January 23rd, 2017

Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, putting on the good cop routine this time:

… It’s not just about a crowd size … it’s just unbelievably frustrating when you’re continually told it’s not big enough, it’s not good enough, you can’t win … I think there’s an overall frustration when you — when you turn on the television over and over again and get told that there’s this narrative that you didn’t win. … It’s frustrating for not just him, but I think so many of us that are trying to work to get this message out.

So if I understand correctly, and I’m not saying I do; I could be getting this wrong, but check me on this: The guy who announced his candidacy by saying the people who came to the United States from Mexico were rapists and drug dealers, the guy who called his opponents childish names for months on end, the guy who encouraged his followers to beat up protesters, the guy who in his inaugural address described America as a devastated wasteland wracked by carnage — that guy is frustrated and demoralized because of negativity from the press?

I’ll have to get a tinier violin than the one I already have for that guy.

whiner in chief | 9:48 pm CST
Category: yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Saturday, January 21st, 2017

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer made a brief appearance this evening to give the press an update on the president’s activities, BUT FIRST! Spicer went on a four and a half minute tear, snarling and snapping at the press like a pissed-off drama queen. I’ve never seen anything like it from a White House press secretary. Full disclosure: I don’t watch a lot of briefings from White House press secretaries. Maybe they rant like petulant brats all the time. I kind of doubt it. I think that it’s usually the case that White House pressers generally are about as interesting as watching grass grow. Hence my lack of familiarity with them.

“Before I get to the news of the day,” Spicer began, looking for all the world like a pissed-off dad glaring at you from the front seat of the car after he’s just WARNED YOU FOR THE LAST TIME TO KNOCK IT OFF, “I think I’d like to discuss the coverage of the past twenty-four hours.” Then he made some wah-wah Charlie Brown teacher noise about peaceful transfer of power before launching into it: “Some members of the media were engaged in deliberately false reporting. Two instances yesterday stand out: One was a particularly egregious example in which a reporter falsely Tweeted out that the bust of Martin Luther King Junior had been removed from the Oval Office.”

That’s Spicer’s idea of an egregious example of false reporting? That’s what makes him mad enough to use his dad voice? A tweet about the decorations in the Oval Office?

“After it was pointed out that this was just plain wrong,” Spicer continued to fume, “the reporter casually reported and Tweeted out and tried to claim that a Secret Service agent must have been standing in front of it. This was irresponsible –” and here he paused meaningfully to glare at the press “– and reckless.” Except he said that last part in all caps, “THIS WAS IRRESPONSIBLE AND RECKLESS.” I know it was all caps because he used the same tone of voice dad used when he said IF YOU MAKE ME STOP THIS CAR.

Spicer spent the next two minutes railing at the press because they reported that attendance at the inauguration seemed sparse. Photos and videos showed a national mall that was maybe half-filled and empty bleachers all along the parade route. Or, in Spicer’s view of reality: “Photographs of the inaugural proceedings were intentionally framed in a way in one particular tweet to minimize the enormous support that had gathered on the national mall.” He used more wah-wah Charlie Brown noise about how floor covering, fencing and magnetometers made the enormous crowds appear smaller than they were. (Magnetometers?)

But reporters tweeting photos of a half-empty mall didn’t fire up Spicer half as much as reporters tweeting out their estimations of the numbers in attendance. “NO ONE HAD NUMBERS,” he snapped, “because the National Park Service, which controls the National Mall, does not put any out.” What I hear Spicer saying is, without the National Park Service, it’s impossible for reporters to know how many people showed up.

Seconds later, Spicer estimated the numbers in attendance in probably the same way that the reporters did: “We know that from the platform, where the president was sworn in, to 4th Street holds about 250,000 people. From 4th Street to the media tent is about another 220,000, and from the media tent to the Washington Monument another 250,000 people.” (I wonder where Spicer got these numbers? They couldn’t be from the National Park Service, because Spicer just said the NPS doesn’t put any out.)

After rattling off these figures, Spicer declared, “ALL OF THIS SPACE WAS FULL when the president took the oath of office.”

Spicer must be using a definition of the word “full” that I am not able to find in any of my dictionaries. (Yes, I still use dictionaries; why don’t you?) The inauguration is one of the most well-documented events of the year. Photos and videos all showed people strolling easily across the open space at the far end of the mall. There was enough room to play a football game next to the Washington Monument. This is just straight-up gaslighting. Spicer might as well have jumped up on the podium and barked, “WHO ARE YOU GOING TO BELIEVE, ME OR YOUR LYING EYES?” And for what? Ratings? He’s upset because Trump threw a party and the press reported, as accurately as they could, that ONLY a few hundred thousand people came? His blood boils when Trump doesn’t get the ratings Spicer thinks he deserves?

Then Spicer glared deliberately at the press and announced, “This was the largest audience to witness an inauguration,” and once again he broke out his all-caps voice, “PERIOD, both in person and around the globe.” Dayum. Sorry we made you stop the car, dad.

Spicer added that Trump visited the CIA this afternoon and THEY ADORED HIM! And the president HAD THEIR BACKS! And by the way isn’t it sad that Trump couldn’t meet the CIA director because there wasn’t one because the Democrats were holding up his nomination. OH MY GOD REALLY? I HAVE NEVER HEARD OF ANYTHING LIKE THAT BEFORE except every other time a president nominated anybody at all ever.

Watching Spicer’s presser made me die of embarrassment. I literally died every single time he opened his mouth. I died a hundred times over. I am writing to you from the grave. Literally. (If Spicer can tell bold-faced lies, I can, too.)

PERIOD | 8:04 pm CST
Category: random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags: , ,
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Friday, January 20th, 2017

I wrote this early this morning, before Trump’s inauguration:

“My biggest worry now that Trump is president is not that he’s a compulsive liar, is compromised by conflicts of interest, has appointed colossally unqualified people to head federal government agencies, and if his Twitter history is any indication, he’s kind of a jerk. My biggest worry is that conservative governments at the state level have shown every sign they won’t work aggressively to remediate climate change; in fact, they have actively worked to suppress not only remediation, but any kind of research about climate change. So it follows that the federal government under the Trump administration will follow suit. Considering that we seem to be at or near a point that will tip us into a change that will be impossible to counteract, four years could make all the difference between sustaining an environment in which we can continue to live, and polluting the environment beyond its capacity to sustain us. If conservative administrations manage to maintain their overwhelming control over state and federal governments past 2020, and there is every indication that they will be able to, the future looks very grim indeed. Not for me, personally, or my generation. It might get a little more uncomfortable for us in our declining years than usual, but we’ll be fine, more or less. The next generation, our children, will be much less fine, and it’s anybody’s guess what their children, the generation after that, face. We could have done so much to make a brighter future for them.”

In the five or ten minutes after Trump was sworn in, every mention of climate change was removed from the White House web page. Instead, the official White House policy became:

“An America First Energy Plan: For too long, we’ve been held back by burdensome regulations on our energy industry. President Trump is committed to eliminating harmful and unnecessary policies such as the Climate Action Plan and the Waters of the U.S. rule … The Trump Administration will embrace the shale oil and gas revolution … The Trump Administration is also committed to clean coal technology, and to reviving America’s coal industry.”

So much for remediation. Tipping point, here we come!

tipping point | 9:42 pm CST
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Thursday, January 12th, 2017

After dinner, we sat down to watch a recording of Trump’s press conference because there’s nothing we enjoy more than pain and suffering, and if we don’t get enough of that at work, we look for ways to inflict more of it on ourselves later. But after supper. Gotta eat supper first.

My Darling B found it on teh intarwebs, hit “play” and we hunkered down. I managed to stick with it to the end of Trump’s rambling introduction and the first two questions before I reached my breaking point. That was all the Trump I could take in audio/visual form for one day. Ten, maybe fifteen minutes. You might think I’m a bit thin-skinned, like I have a low tolerance for pain and suffering, but I think you have to keep in mind that Trump is a highly-concentrated grade of pain and suffering. A little bit of Trump goes a long way. A sliver’s a tiny thing, but get one under your fingernail and wow! You learn a whole new kind of pain. Trump’s like that.

I stopped watching and locked myself away in a separate room, but I couldn’t pull the sliver out all at once. I found a transcript of the press conference on teh intarwebs and start to read that. Didn’t finish. Probably won’t finish for weeks, because damn, that hurts. Hurts my eyes, hurts my brain, hurts every cell in my body. I think maybe it even hurts Trump to talk that way. He certainly looks like he’s in pain, doesn’t he? So I’ll be taking it in little doses, a page or two at a time, to minimize the pain and, also, because it takes that long to decipher what he’s saying. Or even some of what he’s saying. I’ll be happy with that. I wish I were around in two-hundred years to read the book historians are going to write that will somehow make sense of it. That would be fascinating reading.

Take the first seventeen words: “It’s very familiar territory, news conferences, because we used to give them on an almost daily basis.” Ouch. Much pain. Have to stop, take a break. Ow. Daily basis? Ouch ouch ouch. Kay. Lemme catch my breath. Kay. What’s next? “I think we probably maybe won the nomination because of news conferences.” Ow ow ow ow. Damn, that hurts as much as crossing the road in bare feet on a hot day. I can see it hurts him, too. I feel for him. Lying with every single breath you take can’t be easy. I’m glad there are people who can take the punishment of politics, because I couldn’t do it.

That’s enough for now. Maybe a cool beer will soothe my aching muscles and sore joints. Ow.

a sliver | 9:35 pm CST
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Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

After Meryl Streep used her acceptance speech at the Golden Globe awards to rip into Trump, she got a lot of blowback from his supporters who said that a) he was only criticizing a reporter who disagreed with him, not mocking the reporter, and b) Streep is an entertainer, not a political figure, so she should stick to acting and leave the politics to people more qualified to talk about it than she is.

I think both objections are a double-barreled load of the most rank kind of horseshit. If Ms. Streep has something political to say, she should be allowed to say it. That shit is protected by the constitution. Anybody who doesn’t like it doesn’t have to listen. Hit the mute button. Change the channel. But to suggest that she has to hold her tongue because people are tuning in to see her accept the award and say some weepy words of thanks? That is about as unamerican as it gets. Free speech, particularly political speech, is a right. Suck it up, buttercup.

That said, I frankly think Streep missed the mark. (If you’re reading this, Ms. Streep, I hope you’ll pardon my impertinence.) She said she was heartbroken that Trump mocked a reporter. If he did, that was a shitty thing to do and he has to live with that. If he didn’t, there are plenty of other things Trump does that break my heart, and bought to break every American’s heart.

Just for a start: What’s with the childish, petty, schoolyard name-calling? Hasn’t Trump got any respect for himself? He lives at the top of a skyscraper in rooms that are literally plated in gold. He’s a businessman at the top of his game, but for some reason he still feels the need to go nanny-nanny boo-boo at his opponents. It’s so boring. So ordinary. So sad.

And if I had to name another, the next thing that pops into my head is that Trump will promise us the moon, sun, and the stars, knowing full well he will disappoint us, yet believing that he will be able to sweet-talk his way out it. And maybe he will. Maybe we’ll let him. We have so far. He promised he would release his tax returns if he was elected; that’s not going to happen. He promised he would sell his business because running the country was more important; now he says he won’t do that. He promised he would build a wall and make Mexico pay for it; now he’s going to build the wall on credit, and promises that Mexico will reimburse us for it. Like the check that’s in the mail, Trump makes too many promises he has to break.

It’s going to be four years of heartbreaks, broken promises, and I know you are but what am I?

streep | 8:55 pm CST
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Wednesday, January 4th, 2017

Julian Assange, who is most infamously known as the founder of an internet clearing house for “leaked” data, appears in an interview broadcast on mainstream media to warn us all that the U.S. media is very dishonest — more dishonest than anyone knows.

Trump live-tweets the show, also using U.S. media.

There isn’t enough gin in the world to make me feel good about the idea that Trump thinks Julian Assange, abetted by Sean Hannity, is now setting the bar for honesty in this country.

dishonest assange | 10:12 pm CST
Category: current events, random idiocy, yet another rant | Tags: , ,
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Monday, September 5th, 2016

At what point do you believe push-ups have occurred? I ask because My Darling B says that we do push-ups when we yoga, but I don’t think we do. We plank, which it the top of a push-up, and we chadurunga, which is lowering from a plank to the floor. I would argue that that is not a push-up because there is no actual, you know, pushing up. We never plank and chadurunga, plank and chadurunga, plank and chadurunga. We could, I suppose, but I have never been to a yoga class where they did that.

Sometimes we chadurunga and up dog, which is lowering from a plank but stopping before our bellies touch the ground, then straightening our arms while leaning forward, while at the same time doing a back bend, looking up at the ceiling. And although we are lowering ourselves down, then pushing ourselves up, that is definitely not a push-up the way I learned to do push-ups in gym class, or in the military.

What I learned was this: Push-ups usually start in the up position. I don’t know why, but I suspect it had something to do with the sadism inherent in gym instructors and sergeants. Hands are directly under your shoulders, arms straight, back straight, feet flexed so you’re on your toes. Then you lower yourself, still with your back straight, until your chest just touches the floor, but never so that it rests on the floor. Your arms should always bear all your weight in a push-up. When your chest touches the floor, you push back up until your arms are straight again.

That is one push-up. But push-ups are never done singly, that I know of. In gym class, I’m pretty sure we never did less than ten push-ups, and in the military I think the minimum number was 25. Whatever the minimum is, push-ups are definitely always plural, and any number less than five seems kinda wussy. So my guess would be that push-ups start at no less than five.

push-ups | 8:39 am CST
Category: Life & Death, yet another rant
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Friday, November 20th, 2015

Donald Trump, the billionaire real estate mogul from New York, is still running at the head of the pack of candidates seeking the Republican nomination for the presidency. His message from the time he announced his candidacy has been one of anger and hate, yet somehow a significant number of people have lapped it up.

Trump’s latest, and arguably most outrageous statement so far came just this week when he said that he would consider closing some mosques and monitoring the rest. It’s obvious that he’s trying to stay at the front of the fear mongering that all of the candidates must take part in as they grasp and claw for the most air time. Still, it’s astounding to me that a candidate for the highest office can not only suggest that it’s okay to crush religious freedom because he’s got a gut feeling there might be something bad going on in churches, but also that his suggestion might be worth discussing on news programs that purport to be the best in the nation.

slings and arrows | 7:00 am CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Tuesday, November 3rd, 2015

Okay, so driving to work in daylight again is kinda nice, I’ll concede that. Waking up at four in the morning still sucks, though.

oh dark thirty | 4:54 am CST
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Monday, January 19th, 2015

It’s been ten years since Battlestar Galactica was rebooted by the SyFy Network.

Everybody else’s take: Greatest Television Show Ever Broadcast.

My take, staying in the five-word format: Looks great, stupid as hell.

Looks great: Really great, if you get off on space ships, and who doesn’t? Stupid people, that’s who. And also, killer robots! What’s not to like?

Stupid as hell: The killer robots lurch and shamble like old-school zombies which nonetheless manage to sneak up on the humans even though they go whirrr-whirrr, whirrr-whirrr and CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! with every step.

Looks great: I like watching Edward James Olmos do just about anything, and I especially liked the way he growled through his role as Adama.

Stupid as hell: Baltar is crazy. Raves, talks, jumps and squirms because an invisible Cylon is constantly harassing him. I get it that nobody can see the Cylon, but everybody can clearly see that Baltar constantly, relentlessly acts like he’s out of his goddamn mind. The only crazy thing he doesn’t do is foam at the mouth, and yet the other key people in the show listen to him as if he behaved like a wizened sage. Wait, maybe they’re all batshit crazy. I just thought of that.

Looks great: The new fighters look cool!

Stupid as hell: Why are there one-man fighter planes on the Galactica, a ship that must be at least a mile long with enough room inside to carry destroyers, dreadnaughts, cruisers, torpedo boats, anything with more firepower than fighters that carry just two guns!

looks great but | 10:42 am CST
Category: entertainment, play, random idiocy, television, yet another rant
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Saturday, January 17th, 2015

Yesterday, for what I’m pretty sure was the first time ever at the office where I work now, someone stepped up to the middle urinal while I was at the right urinal and someone else was at the left urinal. I’m almost one-hundred percent positive that’s never happened there before. At least, not that I’ve seen. I’ve been working there a little over fourteen months. Maybe the old-timers know different.

This particular building went up in 1964, back when urinals stood four feet tall and were sunk into the floor. More to the point, they were very often planted so close together that, when every one of them was occupied, you rubbed shoulders with the guy beside you. I had to learn early on not to mind getting nudged while peeing. That hardly ever happens in modern buildings, where urinals are spaced far enough apart to put up a steel divider between them.

There’s a gang of three urinals in the men’s room off the elevator lobby, and like the rest of the men on our floor, I’ve always used one of the end urinals. Nobody uses the middle urinal, not even when they go in and find themselves all alone, because what if somebody comes in? And if you go in and find that both end urinals are occupied, you either pass by on your way to the toilets, or you do a one-eighty and go to another floor.

I’m not sure why. My first guess was that most guys think it’s gay, but I’m not sure that figures, when you think about it even a little bit. Most guys stand way too far from the urinal while they’re using it – that’s not my opinion, that’s a fact that a quick scan of the floor will confirm – so I don’t think they’re uncomfortable about putting their junk on public display. But maybe it’s the shoulder-rubbing that they’re uncomfortable with. I’m more than a little uncomfortable with it, to be totally honest. I don’t want to be rubbing shoulders with anyone other than my wife in any situation that isn’t a dire emergency.

My second guess, and this one seems a lot more likely to me, is that the social dynamic of the public bathroom has changed a lot in fifty years. Used to be that guys would gab a lot in the men’s room. Especially so at the urinals, probably because they were packed so close together anyway. If a guy stepped into the vacant spot next to you, he’d say Hi, How Bout Them Packers? Or he’d tell you the latest one he heard about the priest, the rabbi and the pastor, and you’d be expected to tell him the best one you heard that week. Doesn’t happen now. I’m not lamenting it; things change. But you can observe it yourself: Guys don’t talk much in the men’s room any more, least of all at the urinals, where they’re silent as gargoyles. About half of them are plugged into podcasts anyway, so you couldn’t trade jokes with them if you wanted to.

Which is why I was absolutely gobsmacked, and just a little taken aback, frankly, when a guy stepped into the middle urinal yesterday. I almost said something to him. Not about the score of the last Packers game, but something like, Did you even check to see if there’s an open toilet? Because I’m pretty sure he didn’t. And because he had Transgressed the Unwritten Law. It’s not like there are a lot of rules to using the men’s room, but this one has solidified over the years to the point that it’s virtually carved into the tiles above the middle urinal: Thou Shalt Not. Back Away. Do It Now.

And yet, there he was. Guy’s obviously too much of a rebel for unwritten laws. Or he’s from another planet. Didn’t think of that until just now.

middle | 9:49 am CST
Category: coworkers, daily drivel, Farts & Farting, office work, random idiocy, this modern world, work, yet another rant
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Sunday, November 23rd, 2014

I broke a glass while washing dishes and cut my finger. Not a deep cut, but it wouldn’t stop bleeding. Couldn’t finish washing dishes until it stopped. I tried cold water, then direct pressure. I tried tightly bandaging it. It kept bleeding.

I just wanted to finish washing the dishes! So I washed them with my left hand only, rinsed them off carefully and left them on the drain board to drip-dry.

This is the third time I’ve cut myself this week. Yesterday I cut the end of my middle finger on the plastic tip of my shoelace. My shoelace! And a day or two ago I cut the tip of my thumb open. So now I’ve got three cuts that won’t heal until some time in April because of how my hands dry out during the winter.

a thousand cuts | 11:52 am CST
Category: yet another rant
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Sunday, September 21st, 2014

I had tickets to see Pomplamoose last week at the High Noon Saloon. Too bad I didn’t get to see them.

Oh, I was there. I got there early. Tickets said the show started at eight, so I was there with my hot date at seven-thirty hoping to score a couple of seats close to the stage. Turns out the High Noon doesn’t do seats close to the stage. They don’t do seats anywhere near the stage. You can stand on the open floor around the stage, or you can try to wrangle a seat in the balcony. We managed to wrangle a seat in the balcony behind some motormouthed dude who apparently paid the fifteen-dollar cover charge so he could spend the whole time yammering to the other people at his table what a great show it was. Or something. I couldn’t make out what he was saying, only that he was making a lot of noise.

To be fair to the motormouth, everybody was making a lot of noise. Here’s a tip: If you want to hear what one of your favorite bands would sound like as background music, go see them at the High Noon Saloon, where the customers pay for tickets to see a band and then stand around jabbering while the band plays. Made my head explode. Twice, because there were two opening acts: John Schroeder, a blues singer who might’ve been pretty good if only I could have heard him over the crowd noise, and Danielle Ate The Sandwich, a kind of folksy singer who might’ve been pretty good if only I could have … oh, you know.

I bugged out before Pomplamoose came on stage, for two good reasons: I didn’t want to get arrested for jumping up on the pool table and yelling, FOR CHRIST’S SAKE WILL YOU DUMBSHITS SHUT THE HELL UP?! And also because it was late. I’m old. I go to bed at ten o’clock. To see my favorite band I’ll make an exception, but not after they keep me waiting for two hours, and not when the crowd is going to keep on gossiping about the dumb shit that happened at work that day. So I didn’t get to see Pomplamoose. Sad face.

Here’s one of my favorite Pomplamoose songs, just so you know why I’m kinda bummed that I didn’t get to see them:

Pomplamoose | 5:06 pm CST
Category: entertainment, music, play, yet another rant | Tags:
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Monday, July 28th, 2014

surpriseYou’ve seen this plenty of times in the news or through social media such as Facebook: Soldier doesn’t tell child / spouse he (or she!) is coming home because they want to surprise child / spouse by showing up unannounced at a party / their graduation ceremony / a wedding. News anchors, Facebook posters, My Dear Aunt Sally – everyone seem to think this is the most darling thing anyone on earth anywhere has ever done.

So, let’s say you’re my daughter and I’m on the other side of the world in a place where death and destruction threatens me every day. It’s an absolute certainty that I’m going to be away for years. I can zap off an e-mail to you every once in a while, but between messages you literally don’t know whether I’m dead or alive. I’m like that cat in the box everyone makes jokes about.

But this is what I’ve done for as long as you can remember. It’s my life, so you get on with your life. Day by day, as you wait for those e-mails and maybe the occasional phone call, you’ve got to act as though someone you love isn’t mortally threatened every minute of every day. You go to school, you go to your job, you watch TV in the evenings, then you grab a hot coffee in the morning and do it all over again.

One day, it’s your graduation. You put on a cap and gown, you make the valedictorian speech (of course you do!), and then as you climb the steps to pick up your diploma, Hey! Look who’s here! It’s me! I made everyone promise not to tell you I was coming so I could surprise you in front of all these people, even though I knew you would probably lose all self-control and bawl your eyes out! And that was such a nice valedictorian speech, but guess which one of us is going to be the headline on Fox News? It’s not about you any more, it’s about me. You’re welcome.

Apparently I’m the only one who thinks this is kind of a dick move.

you could have phoned | 9:58 pm CST
Category: yet another rant
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Friday, April 11th, 2014

My Darling B has a whole new attitude about mice since she opened her garden shed and discovered they’d pooped and peed on just about everything in there. Before she was on Mother Nature’s side, making me trap them live so we could release them in a nearby city park, but now that she has to hose down everything that was in the shed and throw out all her gardening gloves, her ideology has gone from bunny-hugger to “Kill Every Stinking One Of Those Little Poop-Machines!”

I knew she’d come around eventually.

changeup | 1:59 pm CST
Category: garden, hobby, housekeeping, My Darling B, O'Folks, Our Humble O'Bode, play, yard work, yet another rant | Tags:
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Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

The animals are running from Yellowstone! Fleeing! Just like they did before the earthquake! And before the tsunami! It can only mean that the supervolcano underneath is gonna blow! And government scientists are covering it up!

The same scientists, maybe, who’ve been trying to tell everyone for thirty or forty years that we’ve got to stop crapping up the air or we’ll all end up breathing from bottles? Those are the guys who are making a big secret out of the supervolcano that just might wipe out all life in North America?

Okay. That makes … no sense at all.

kaboom | 1:42 pm CST
Category: yet another rant
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Monday, January 20th, 2014

We tried to watch the first episode of this season’s Downton Abbey last night using Amazon streaming video through a PS3. If that didn’t make any sense at all, here’s how that breaks down:

First of all, yes, we’re fans of Downton Abbey. Roll your eyes all you want. We like it.

Tim left us his PS3, which is a computer made by Sony to play video games. He bought it to play one game in particular and then, when he got tired of the game, he boxed up the computer and pretty much forgot about it until he was cleaning out some of his stuff, found it again and was trying to figure out how to get rid of it. I had just learned that a PS3 will pay Blue-Ray movies and I’m too cheap to buy an actual Blue-Ray disc player, so I offered to pay him whatever he wanted for it, and that’s when he gave it to us. Thanks for the free computer, T-Dawg.

I don’t remember how I found out that we could watch Netflix on it, too. I think Tim told us that. However we found out, the PS3 works just fine as a Blue-Ray player, or to watch Netflix. Love it. What doesn’t work very well, though, is streaming instant video from Amazon. I’m not sure why. Netflix video streams with no problem, but Amazon video buffers all. The. Time. Try to watch a two-hour show when that little twirling arrow thingie freezes the action every three minutes. I can put up with some video buffering when I’m trying to watch a ninety-second video of kittens, but it drove us both up a wall last night. We eventually gave up and watched Downton on B’s tablet. By the way, watching TV on a seven-inch tablet isn’t so bad when you’re watching with somebody who doesn’t mind cuddling up to you.

PS3 | 9:09 am CST
Category: damn kids!, entertainment, play, television, yet another rant
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Thursday, December 26th, 2013

I really want to like my smart phone. And for the most part, I do. It can do some pretty awesome stuff I never asked for or even expected it to do. Besides the obvious extras – texting, browsing the internet – it’s got GPS, for instance, so when I call up a Google map, a little blue dot will float down the street I’m walking or driving along. I can’t get lost while I have this phone on me. That kind of rocks my world.

I can also look up almost anything at will. Anything at all. The great big holes in my memory are no longer as frustrating as they used to be. I can usually remember enough background information to successfully google the web page where all the details I need to fill the holes can be found. That definitely rocks my world, no question.

And there are lots of nifty gadgets called apps I can get for the phone. I love gadgets. I love being able to keep a log of how far I walk each day. That particular app even maps each walk so I can keep track of where I’ve been. Love it. Very geeky.

What my smart phone is not particularly good at, ironically, is making a phone call. The reasons are simple, and there are only two: The audio quality sucks, and most people, including yours truly, have very little no radio discipline.

In my lifetime, telephones – real telephones, not cell phones – almost always had good audio quality. Even the cheap plastic ten-dollar phones that drug stores have been selling in blister packs for the last fifteen years or so delivered better audio quality than the best cell phones. I don’t know why, unless it’s because telephones are hardwired into a network while cell phones communicate by radio. Whatever the cause, that was the biggest reason I resisted disconnecting our land line for so long. I liked being able to hear my mom’s voice as it might have sounded if she were not very far away at all. Then she got a cell phone, after practically everybody else I knew did, and then it didn’t matter whether or not I had a land line. Clarity became obsolete. Think about that.

But the thing that really bugs me about cell phones is that they are not telephones at all, but glorified walkie-talkies, hand-held radios that can imitate telephonic communication by virtue of their computer brains. Imitate it, mind you. They’re still radios. While you’re talking, you’re transmitting. You’re not receiving anything your friend is saying. You don’t even know if your friend is talking until you stop. That wasn’t the case with telephones. You could carry on a conversation over a telephone line exactly as if you were speaking to somebody who was in the room with you. You could say “Yes, yes,” or “Uh-huh,” or “Nope, nope, nope,” while they were talking, not necessarily with the intention of interrupting them but just to let them know you were paying attention, listening to what they were saying. Or you could try to interrupt them, but they could keep right on talking to get their point across. You could have a live, active, colorful conversation.

If you want to communicate with anyone over a radio circuit, however, you can’t do any of that. Whenever you start to talk, or even if you say “uh-huh,” your cell phone starts transmitting, which means it stops receiving, which means you can’t hear what your friend is saying anymore. What used to be a verbal cue that told your friend you were listening has become a nervous tic that slams the brakes on the conversation you’re trying to have. So you have to completely change the way you talk. You have to orate instead of converse. For instance, say your friend goes first. While he’s talking, you must compose a response in your head, then when it’s your turn you have to yadda-yadda-yadda non-stop until you’ve finished your prepared speech, because any pause in your oration might be interpreted by your friend as his cue to start talking. When you really are done, you have to stay done until your friend is through. Keeping your mouth shut is not good enough; you have to be deathly quiet. Not even so much as an “uh-huh” through your nose.

This is such an unsatisfying way to have a conversation that I’d much rather write or text people than call and talk to them. Luckily, my phone can do that.

my second brain | 5:33 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, damn kids!, yet another rant
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Tuesday, November 26th, 2013

Wisconsin’s license plates are white with black letters, pretty boring. There’s a little banner across the top with “Wisconsin” spelled out and, off to one side, what looks like a maybe a sailboat, a couple of sandhill cranes in flight, and a cartoon barn. Not even a credibly nice try at making it look interesting, and definitely not an improvement over the old yellow license plates, if you ask me.

But as boring as our license plates may be – on a scale from one to ten, with zero being the most boring, I’d give them a two – what I want to rant about today is collector plates.

Did you hear that? That noise was the sound of My Darling B rolling her eyes. I don’t know how she makes an eye-roll audible, but there you go. Amazing, isn’t it?

Collector plates are blue with red lettering and, according to the statue that authorizes them, are supposed to be used to license historically significant cars more than 20 years old that are being maintained as part of a collection.

What nearly everybody uses them for, though, is licensing their junkers. If you own a crap car that’s more than 20 years old and you don’t want to pay the yearly registration fee, no problem! Get the collector plate! It costs twice as much as a regular license plate, but you never have to renew it! A collector plate pays for itself in just two years, provided your junker holds up that long. Congratulations! You may now drive your piece of shit until it falls apart or you restore it, whichever comes first.

I know this because, although I very occasionally see a ’57 Chevy Bel Air sporting a blue collector plate, they more often have a vanity plate that says something like CHVYLVR. The blue plates, which I see nearly every day, are on Chevy Astro Vans, a vehicle so rare these days that they command sale prices in the hundreds of dollars. Serious collectors must be tripping over themselves to get hold of those.

collector plates | 9:39 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Saturday, November 23rd, 2013

I’ve been on the road for a couple days in the service of the Great State of Wisconsin, which means that I haven’t had a decent cup of coffee until just this morning. The hotels we stay in on these trips are all the kind that serve a complimentary breakfast of dried cereal or make-your-own waffles, and the coffee they set out for us comes out of a great big stainless steel urn. I was very hopeful the first time I saw that. Although coffee that’s been stewing all morning in a great big urn does not always taste the best, it’s usually strong enough to strip the paint off the sides of a battleship. Alas, chain hotels have apparently figured out how to water down urn coffee so it wouldn’t wake up a light sleeper if you poured the whole thing on his head.

I’m a light sleeper, but I’d like a strong cup of coffee in the morning, preferably two. That’s just not happening, not at the hotel and not anywhere near the hotel. The off-ramp territory where chain hotels are built seems to be the last places on earth where Starbucks fears to tread. I don’t like the coffee Starbucks makes; it all tastes burned to me, but at least it’s strong. I’d trudge a quarter-mile on foot and gratefully slug back a cup of their French Roast if I could just get my hands on one, but no joy.

There’s usually a McDonald’s nearby, but I won’t set food in a McDonald’s again until after the apocalypse.

Which reminds me: Whatever happens, even if the zombie hoards are overrunning the city, do not resort to drinking the stuff that comes out of those toy coffee makers in hotel rooms. Not only is that stuff not coffee, it’s not drinkable. It may even be injurious to human health, but I’m not saying anyone should be forced to drink it just so we can find out.

javaless | 9:40 am CST
Category: coffee, food & drink, random idiocy, travel, work, yet another rant
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Sunday, November 10th, 2013

The song stuck in my head all last week was The Bangles’ Manic Monday. Pick just about any one of their songs and I’ll tap my feet or sing along with it, so ordinarily I wouldn’t be bothered if one was stuck in my head for days on end, but Manic Monday is arguably the worst song The Bangles ever recorded. And I will argue the point right here and now. To death. You’re welcome.

What the hell is it about Manic Monday that made it so goddamn popular? The tune’s not especially catchy. Try whistling it. If you’re not bored after the first two lines, you will be by the time you get through the three-note bridge of the song. I’m not saying that every pop song has to be as intricately complex as a Beethoven minuet, but I’d like something a little more imaginative than a tune a chicken could peck out on a toy piano.

Then there are the lyrics. Even in a pop song, they’re supposed to be, well, lyrical.

Six o’clock already, I was just in the middle of a dream

Yeah, I hate it when that happens. Okay, I’m listening. What happened next?

I was kissing Valentino by a crystal blue Italian stream

I’m not going to question how you knew it was an Italian stream. In dreams, sometimes you just know you’re in Italy, or the dog you’re talking to is actually your mom, or something really weird. But Valentino? Who dreams about Valentino? How many people these days even know who Valentino is? And Valentino was in movies before they were in color. Well, never mind. Bring on the next line.

But I can’t be late ’cause then I guess I just won’t get paid

What the hell was that? Did you write that on a napkin that was too wet to let you cross it out? That line’s as clunky as a 98 Ford Escort on its last legs! Fifteen-year-olds composing their first poems in the margins of their algebra workbooks write lines that scan better than that!

You guess you just won’t get paid? Why are you guessing? I think it’s a law that they have to pay you. Maybe a couple dollars less, and maybe your boss is going to yell at you, but all the places I’ve worked at had to pay me even when I was late.

And why just? Why won’t you just get paid? That doesn’t make sense. Don’t use “just” when it doesn’t make sense. There’s a special ring in songwriting hell for people who pad lyrics with junk syllables.

These are the days when you wish your bed was already made

I don’t make my bed unless I’ve got lots of extra time. First I shower, then I make my coffee, then I drink my coffee while I’m catching up on Facebook or watching cat videos, then I get dressed, and so on down the checklist of things I do every morning. Making my bed is the last thing on the list. If I don’t get to it, no biggie.

Anyway, you tell us later in the song that your boyfriend’s not working. Tell that shiftless bastard to make the bed. It’s the least he can do while he’s mooching off you.

Just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
Just another manic Monday

I’m still not getting why it’s manic, other than it’s Monday and you’re making the shift from the weekend to the working week. Elvis Costello did it a lot better, by the way. You’ve got to do it, so you’d better get to it.

Have to catch an early train, got to be to work by nine, and if I had an aeroplane I still couldn’t make it on time

Okay, you’re not making sense again. You woke up at six o’clock. Most people don’t wake up that early unless an alarm goes off. You set an alarm for six, right? This is what you do every day, right? If so, how did you not have enough time to catch the early train? How early does that train have to be? How far away do you live from work that you couldn’t get there in time even if you flew, for shit’s sake?

And “aeroplane?” Are you kidding me? Who says “aeroplane” anymore? You’re padding again. Knock it off.

‘Cause it takes so long just to figure out what I’m going to wear.
Blame it on the train ’cause the boss is already there.

Oh. I’m starting to see now. You’re an employee with a record of attendance issues, aren’t you? “Sorry, boss, I missed the train.” “For the third time this month? Sure you did.”

Just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
Just another manic Monday

Buy some work clothes. Black slacks, white shirts. Wear those every day. Stop thinking about what you’re going to wear and you won’t have to run for the early train any more.

Out of all nights, why did my lover have to pick last night to get down?
Doesn’t it matter that I have to feed the both of us, employment’s down?
He tells me in his bedroom voice, “Come on honey, let’s go make some noise.”

Wait a sec, why does he get to pick? You’re the working girl, you pay the rent, you bring home the bacon. This guy’s got it made! He’s getting all of that and you’re staying up late for him when he wants nookie! Even when he uses a laugh-out-loud line like “let’s go make some noise.” Does a line like that really work? I can’t believe that works.

Just another manic Monday
I wish it was Sunday
Cause that’s my fun day
My I don’t have to run day
Just another manic Monday

Those have got to be the worst rhymes for Monday ever.

Manic Monday | 4:51 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, yet another rant
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Wednesday, October 2nd, 2013

Woke up this morning, rubbed the sleepers from my eyes, tumbled out of the van and went staggering up the road to the office-slash-general store to get a cup of coffee.

Halfway back to our camp site I slowed to a stop as I caught sight of B standing just outside the van, binoculars in hand, getting quickly back into the van and closing the door behind her.

Turning to see what she might possibly be looking at that would make her seek the safety of the car, I noticed an elk standing among the trees. Then I noticed a couple more elk just beyond the edge of the treeline. And then, finally, I noticed there was a whole freaking herd of elk slowly making its way through the field just beyond the edge of the RV park. Okay, so I missed them at first. I bet you’re not exactly Old Eagle Eye before you’ve had your coffee, either.

We found out later that they come though almost every day. And they’re used to having lots of people around. They weren’t in the least spooked by us, and a few of them came startlingly close as they made their way through an open field to the trees on the other side.

elks

Elk, by the way, are huge. You don’t realize just how big they are until one of them is close enough to spit in your eye. Or stomp you like the bug you are.

After the excitement was over and we had all our crap packed up, we hit the road to look for some breakfast. On the way, we stopped at the entrance to Redwood National Park to take a few selfies with the notices that the park was closed due to the federal government shutdown. I was on vacation, so why did I care? Oh, I am so glad you asked. Because: Of all the places in California I’ve wanted all my life to visit, Redwood National Park was in the top five. This was my third visit to California, but only the first time I was close enough to the park to stop by. And what happens? The doot-brains in Washington get into a pissing contest and shut down everything, even the parks. When the feds shut down a park, they don’t just tell the guys in the Smokey hats to take the week off. No. They make the rangers set up sawbucks to block the entrances, then stand outside them and turn away visitors. No trees for you! Natural beauty is off limits this week! Thanks, federal government, for availing yourself of yet another opportunity to reinforce my opinion that you’re a sack of bastards.

You know what? We camped in one of your goddamn campgrounds anyway. Up yours!

government shutdown

Actually, I’m getting ahead of myself. We stopped at Antlers the last night we camped in California and found three or four other campers at the site who said all the forest rangers packed up and left when the feds shut everything down. Before they left, though, they told the campers that what they didn’t see, didn’t happen. The bathrooms were open and the lights were on, so we slipped thirty bucks under the door of the office and stayed for the night. The photo I took of My Darling B expressing her outrage at The Man for shutting everything down was too good not to share it with you at this point in the story, though. Now, back to Wednesday.

We had breakfast at the Palm Cafe and Hotel in Orick, and it was amazing! Their hospitality was top-rate from the moment we walked in the door. The host greeted us right away and showed us to a table by the window in the morning sunshine where he poured us a couple mugs of hot coffee and made sure they never got cold the whole time we were there. B zeroed in on the biscuits & gravy, her very favorite thing to order any time it appears on the menu, and she was very happy with the freshly-made biscuits and generous portion of gravy she got. I had a stack of the fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever been privileged to stuff myself silly with. We were both well and truly serensified by the time we climbed back into the van to hit the road.

Welcome to OregonFrom Orick we went straight north, or as straight as the twisting road would let us, planning to make as few stops as possible until we got to Crescent City to fuel. We made a hard right turn onto State Highway 199 out of Crescent City and crossed into Oregon shortly afterwards, making a big loop just over the border through the town of Grants Pass before heading south again.

Grants Pass, by the by, is probably not a place that you’ve ever heard of but was made famous, or maybe infamous, by the initiation of Tony Roberts into a club known as Mountain Man Anonymous in 1993. To become a member of the club, Tony let one of the club members try to shoot a one-gallon fuel can off his head with an arrow. The arrow went a little south of the mark. “Surgeons removed the arrow from Anthony Roberts’ head by drilling a larger hole around the tip at the skull’s back and pulling the arrow through,” the AP story explained, which has to be the single most ewww-inducing sentence ever printed in an Associated Press news item. I used to carry it around in my wallet for years so I could read it to people just to watch them squirm.

We did not plan to go to Grants Pass just so I could be in the place where this happened; it was just a lucky accident.

We made one stop at Medford to visit the Apocalypse Brewery, but they weren’t open, darn it, and didn’t open until four o’clock, too late for us to hang around and still make it to the show in Ashland we were headed for, so I can’t say anything about their beer, too bad. If you go looking for it, it’s really hard to find because it’s at the back end of a business park in what looks like a U-Store-It unit. Don’t give up until you check behind the fast-food store.

Caldera Brewery Ashland OROnward to Ashland where, after driving all freaking day, we stopped for a much-deserved beer and some food at Caldera Brewing, a brewpub in a cavernous metal barn where hundreds if not thousands of beer bottles are lined up on shelves up the wall. I spent way too much time searching them to see if I could find two that were alike, then gave up after the food arrived.

Before heading into town to see the show, we checked in at Glenyan campground, an old KOA that still has the easily recognizable teepee-shaped front office. I still feel a happy little twinge of nostalgia whenever I see one of those. My family used to stop at KOAs whenever we went on our annual winter camping trip to the warmer climes of the southern states. A lot of the campsites at Glenyan were occupied by big RV trailers, most of them with pop-outs and most of them more or less permanently affixed to the property, making the tightly-packed grounds seem even cozier, but we were there just to stay the night. All we wanted, really, was a place to park and go to sleep. They let us use the rec room to charge our phones and tablets even though everything else was shut down or turned off, so bonus points, Glenyan, and thanks!

The show we were going to see in town was Cymbaline, just one of the many shows being staged at the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. We picked Cymbaline because we hadn’t seen it before and because it was presented on their Elizabethan stage, an open-air theater encircled by the audience seats, sort of like the old Globe Theatre in London. Figured that would be a more authentic Shakespearian experience, somehow.

There was a stage just outside the theater where a local and apparently well-loved band was performing a few of their own numbers just prior to the start of Cymbaline, so we hung around outside the doors to see what they were like. I’m not sure how to describe their music without resorting to clichés like “drug-induced” and “hippy-dippy weirdo with a side order of dissonance.” I can’t say I enjoyed it, but I can’t say it bothered me, either. Mostly, I was just bored with it. Not so the gathered crowd; they lapped it up and cheered for more, which made me feel as though I was somehow missing something. I kept listening for it, whatever it was, but I never got it.

Because the theater was open to the weather, naturally it rained on us. Quite a lot. We had seats right up front by the stage, which would have been the greatest if they hadn’t been out in the middle of the open roof. “I’m sure it’s going to stop any minute now,” B kept saying to me, as we were slowly being soaked through to our bones, and once or twice it did seem to be letting up just a bit, but then it would start coming down again, and of course it seemed like it was coming down a little bit harder, but that was probably only because we were already wet, chattering and miserable.

We eventually found an usher and begged him to change our seats for a couple in the shelter of the balcony, which would’ve been great if we weren’t already sodden as disrags, but since we were, we slowly froze all the way through to our cores as the first two acts played out. At intermission, we ducked out to the car, cranked up the heater as high as it would go and headed back to camp where we huddled together in a tightly-knotted ball under the quilts. I didn’t start to feel warm again until just before daybreak.

California Day 6 | 8:06 pm CST
Category: brewpubs, food & drink, restaurants, travel, vacation, yet another rant | Tags: , , , , , , , ,
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Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

A man walks into a bar and orders a martini.

And the bartender asks him, “Any preference of vodka?”

The man walks out.

This is not a joke. It’s what you do if you cross paths with a bartender – a bartender, for shit’s sake! – who thinks a martini is made with vodka.

The man, not incidentally, was chef and writer Michael Ruhlman, so we’re not talking about just another martini snob. Okay, he is, by definition, a martini snob, but he’s got more qualifications for having an opinion about it than most people. So when he Mr. Ruhlman says, “The “vodka martini” should be referred to as a Kangaroo, “vodkatini,” or as one Twitterer suggested Lousy-tini,” you should take note.

perfect | 5:13 am CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Monday, August 19th, 2013

We went to see 2 Guns last night because My Darling B wanted to see a flick with lots of action that didn’t require a lot of thought. We certainly got what we were after. And I don’t mean that like it’s a bad thing. In almost all of the right ways, it was a wonderful popcorn movie.

Speaking of popcorn, a trip to the snack bar for two buckets of popcorn and two bottles of water ran up a grand total of $22.75. The tickets cost $20.00. They’re not even pretending that this is about the entertainment any more, are they?

priceless | 6:45 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, movies, play, yet another rant
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Saturday, June 29th, 2013

I’m beginning to despair that I will never be able to read the news again without having to look at Paula Deen’s freakishly bright smile hovering over some story about how she lost yet another endorsement or book deal. It’s only been going on for, what, a week? Feels like ETERNITY. Our language needs a word for shit that’s been in the news forever despite no longer being, you know, news.

paula dean | 7:58 am CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Monday, June 10th, 2013

I was sitting here just now, gazing out the window at the misty morning as I sipped piping hot joe from an oversized cup, wondering where the hell the weekend went already. Last week was like drowning for five days straight, smothered in a sea of dumbassery (special thanks to Charlie Pierce for my new favorite word) and only breaking the surface to take a breath come Friday. Breath taken, it now seems to be Monday morning already, so I repeat: Where the hell did the weekend go? I’ll take my answer off the air, thank you.

lost weekend | 5:30 am CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Monday, April 29th, 2013

Here’s a headline you just can’t ignore: “Karzai’s Office Gets Bags Full of C.I.A. Cash” (the online version of the story is headlined “With Bags of Cash, C.I.A. Seeks Influence in Afghanistan,” which isn’t nearly as eye-catching, if you ask me).

That’s not hyperbole:

For more than a decade, wads of American dollars packed into suitcases, backpacks and, on occasion, plast shoppingg bags have been dropped off every month or so at the offices of Afghanistan’s president – courtesy of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Bags of cash. Literally.

“There is little evidence that the payments bought the influence the C.I.A. sought,” the article goes on. “Some American officials said, … ‘The biggest source of corruption in Afghanistan was the United States.”

The United States was not alone in delivering cash to the president. Mr. Karzai acknowledged a few years ago that Iran regularly gave bags of cash to one of his top aides.

Bags of cash! Wads of it, stuffed in bags! We’re not gonna do the electronic transfer to the secret Cayman Island bank account that we will later pretend we have no knowledge of – tiptoeing around like that is for sissies! We’re going to drop off a shopping bag filled with wads of cash every so often. Or, when there’s too much cash for a shopping bag to hold, we’ll stuff it in a suitcase! You’re welcome!

bags! of cash! | 7:36 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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Thursday, February 28th, 2013

neenerHave you stockpiled supplies for The Day After The Sequester? Because that’s tomorrow, you know. If you didn’t have the foresight to make sure there were a couple extra cases of gin, whiskey and vodka in your basement, you messed up big time. I’m not coming home without a 2-liter bottle of soda water and a glacier-sized bag of ice from the corner store so that, when the power goes out at midnight, I’ll be on my second or third mixer. Then as the house slowly cools because the furnace isn’t running and the sun rises on chaos in the streets, I’ll just snap a nipple over the mouth of a vodka bottle and nurse myself into oblivion. With any luck, an alcohol-induced coma will force me to stop wondering how our country ended up being run by a pack of infants.

“Your plan to balance the budget is stupid!”

“No, your plan is!”

“Nuh-uhhh! Yours is the stupid plan!”

“I’m rubber, you’re glue, stupid!”

*sigh* Pass the whiskey.

infants | 5:59 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Wednesday, February 27th, 2013

Have you heard of this sequester thingy they’re doing in Washington DC? It’s basically like the time that Jim, Spock, Scotty and Bones threatened to destroy the Enterprise when a couple of bad guys wanted to take it over. Each one of them had to tell the computer, very slowly and deliberately, not to mention boringly, to blow up the ship by reciting their names, birth dates, serial numbers, and secret identity codes. Very. Very. Oh. So. Very. Slowly. And the bad guys just stand there and let them do it. If they’d have punched Scotty in the throat, he wouldn’t have been able to tell the computer his secret code and Kirk wouldn’t have been able to pretend he wanted to blow up the Enterprise. Even weirder, one of the bad guys (Frank Gorshin, it turned out) could shoot hot blue electric lightning from his fingertips, which he used later to fry the computer so Kirky and the boys couldn’t do that self-destruct thing any more. I’ll bet there are more than a few Republicans and Democrats who wish they had that superpower.

Or better yet, Frank Gorshin himself could walk through the halls of congress zapping senators and representatives right out of their socks with hot blue electric lightning bolts until they stop trying to make the government self-destruct and get back to work. That would be awesome!

gorshin | 6:03 am CST
Category: current events, television, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

I flew down to Arkansas last weekend to visit Mom. I used a web service to book my flight because I know bugger-all about that sort of thing. For instance, I was naive enough to think that I could simply call the airline on the phone and ask them to book a flight for me. They’ll do that, but they’ll also charge twice what an on-line agency charges without mentioning that teensy tiny little factoid.

I ended up booking a flight through a web service that helped me find the airport near the town where Mom lives. When I searched for flights into the nearest airport, it spat out a list of a couple dozen, showed how much they cost, where they had layovers and how long the flights took. Since the prices were all about the same, give or take ten dollars, I picked the ones that I would have to spend the shortest time on. The only way to fly is the quickest.

I flew down to Arkansas on American Airlines. That flight went very well. We boarded on time, we arrived at O’Hare on time with more than an hour between flights so I didn’t have to run from one end of the airport to the other to catch my connecting flight, which also boarded and landed on time.

I flew back from Arkansas on United Airlines. That flight did not go well AT ALL.

I got to the airport an hour and a half before I was supposed to board, leaving me plenty of time for a proper Wisconsin good-bye. Mom and I hung out in the terminal lobby chatting for a solid twenty minutes before we hugged and kissed and then talked a little longer about the next time I’d visit. Then we chatted a bit longer about how nice it was to see one another again. Then one final good-bye before I climbed the stairs to the security checkpoint to take off my coat and shoes, everything but my pants, although that’s probably coming soon.

After I was through the checkpoint and had put all my clothes back on, I consulted The Big Board to see which gate my flight was boarding at. The Big Board said Gate A6, so off I went. There were a few people already waiting when I got there but I snagged a seat near the desk, pulled out a book and settled in to read until they called for the first group.

They usually start boarding about a half-hour before the scheduled takeoff time but not only was there no boarding announcement then, there was nobody at the desk, the screen behind the desk was dark and, most crucially, there was no plane at the gate. Felling a tad nervous, I strolled down the hall a ways to double-check The Big Board. My flight was still listed as being at Gate A6 and departing at ten-thirty, right on time. I went back to my seat and tried to read some more, but the persistent lack of anybody at the desk or any information appearing on the screen made me so uneasy that I couldn’t concentrate. I eventually gave up and put the book away.

Fifteen minutes before my plane was supposed to leave, I still didn’t see an actual plane parked at the gate outside the window and there was still nobody at the desk to explain why. I went back to The Big Board: My flight was still scheduled to leave on time, still at Gate A6. Hmmm.

There did seem to be a lot of activity at Gate A5, right next door, where four airline representatives were working at the desk. I didn’t want to bother them, though, because a long line of people were waiting to talk to them. At one point, one of the representatives got on the PA to tell the people in line that they were working as fast as they could to re-book everyone.

When ten-thirty came and went without any further announcements, I went back to The Big Board one last time to check on the status of my flight. The Big Board said that it had departed. At that point I thought, To hell with worrying about bothering people. I stopped one of the representatives when she came over to A6 from A5 to use the computer.

“Excuse me, is this where the flight to Chicago will be boarding?” I asked, showing her my boarding pass.

“No, this is Houston,” she answered, glancing at my pass. “Chicago’s over there.” And she pointed at A5, where the long line of people where waiting.

Oh. Okay. Thanks for announcing that. Good thing I didn’t need to ask.

I went next door to Gate A5 and, flashing my boarding pass, asked the woman behind the counter if this would in fact be the gate where the flight to Madison would be boarding. She said yes, it would, so I stood to one side while she fiddled with the computer while answering questions from a bunch of other people.

When she announced that they would begin boarding the aircraft for the flight to Madison, she used a flight number that was not the flight number on my boarding pass. Marching back up to the desk with my boarding pass held out in front of me again I asked her, “Excuse me, you said this was the flight to Madison? Which flight is it?”

She looked at my boarding pass, then at her computer, and then she picked up the microphone again and announced that the flight to Madison – and here she said my flight number this time – would begin boarding.

Sweet Jesus.

We took off forty-five minutes later than we were supposed to, yet somehow we arrived in Chicago only twenty minutes late. I’m not sure how they pulled that off, but I’m not going to complain about that, especially considering what happened next.

The flight pulled up at Terminal F. I went straight off the plane up to The Big Board to find where my connecting flight was supposed to board. It said F12, right down the hall, but when I got there the screen behind the desk said that the flight was going to Frankfort, Kentucky, so once again I held out my boarding pass and asked the guy behind the counter where I could find the flight to Madison.

“Oh, yes, let me just check,” he said, tapping keys on his keyboard. “Ah, I don’t seem to have your name here … wait a minute … oh, yes, this is the flight to Frankfort. You’re on the flight to Madison. They’re a little different, Kentucky and Wisconsin.”

Oh! Hello! We have a comedian! Very funny! Hah! Hah! Hah!

“I get that, thanks. Where can I catch the flight to Madison?”

“Right over there,” he said, pointing to the next gate over.

“No, this flight’s going to Georgia,” the lady behind the desk at the next gate said. “To get to Madison you’ll have to catch the flight at Gate B1.”

Sweet Jesus Christ on a bicycle.

So, with less than twenty minutes to spare, thanks to the comedian, I had to run from Terminal F to Terminal B. I’m pretty sure they’re in separate counties because I barely arrived on time to catch my connecting flight to Madison, a flight so short that they didn’t serve drinks or I would have bought at least two and as many as six before getting into a fight with a flight attendant and ending up being led off the tarmac in handcuffs, so maybe that’s the one thing that went right on that whole trip.

flight risk | 9:20 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, Mom, O'Folks, play, travel, vacation, yet another rant | Tags: , ,
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Saturday, January 19th, 2013

I’m not sure I understand one of the arguments against the regulation of guns. Help me out here.

I’ve read on teh intarwebs that The Most Holy Second Amendment says that we, the people, should all be allowed to have guns so we can shoot tyrants. Either my copy of the bill of rights is completely different from everyone else’s, or it’s the same but I’ve had a stroke that swapped around the meanings of all the words in my head, because I don’t see how the second amendment says that at all. There’s something about a militia, security, bearing arms, but no mention of shooting tyrants.

Assuming that it does, though, and that a citizen’s right to own as many guns as he wants of any kind is absolute: What, exactly, is the objection to registering guns? The one I’ve heard used most often is, if we let the government keep a list of everyone who owns guns, then the guns can be speedily taken away when the tyrants take over. But if one of the reasons for owning a closet full of guns is shooting tyrants, then when the tyrants show up to take the guns, wouldn’t they just get shot? Or am I not understanding how the ‘shoot the tyrant’ thing works?

what then | 10:09 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags: ,
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Saturday, January 12th, 2013

There are lots of reasons I’d rather not argue about guns — excuse me, sorry, I didn’t mean to say “argue,” I meant to say “join the conversation about guns.”

It’s not that I don’t like guns. I do. I’m a gadget geek all the way down to my bones. As far as I’m concerned, guns in almost all their incarnations are some of the coolest gadgets ever contrived by the human mind. They’re shiny; the best ones have lots of moving parts; they make enough noise to thrill just about anybody; and, if you have a really good gun and you practice every day, you can hit the bull’s eye of a target a mile away. Don’t try to tell me that’s not cool, because I won’t listen.

On the flip side, most guns are made to do just one thing: Kill people, immediately, from a safe distance. Not cool at all. A very douchey thing to do, when it comes down to brass tacks. If you want to kill someone, man up and do it with your bare hands. Argue all you want about how you need to kill people with a gun, but I won’t listen to that, either.

Which brings me to the most important reason I’d rather not argue about guns: I don’t want to get shot. Arguing about guns seems to elevate the blood pressure of the people doing the arguing. I’m not saying there’s going to be a shooting in every argument, I’m just saying it’s a lot more likely in a heated argument where you can be pretty sure at least one side has a gun. You can just have that argument between yourselves while I go play with my toys in my basement lair. You’re always welcome to join me, of course. Don’t bring your gun, though.

That said, I’m going to argue anyway. Shoot me.

My argument, in fact, is with Thomas Jefferson, who gets dragged into this “conversation” by way of his famous quote about the tree of liberty:

God forbid we should ever be twenty years without such a rebellion. The people cannot be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented, in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions, it is lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. … And what country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time, that this people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to the facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time, with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

It’s a strange quote to invoke, not least because I would think that patriots wouldn’t like it implied that they’re full of the same kind of shit you’d find in tyrants. It’s one of those metaphors that sounds all lofty and highfalutin, but only if you don’t think about it too much.

If you’re going to quote one of the founders in support of your argument in favor of taking up arms against the government, it seems to me that Jefferson is probably not your best choice, either. You might consider quoting somebody like Washington instead. A guy who will sneak up on the enemy in the middle of the night and kill them in their sleep, on Christmas, carries a little more weight than a career politician who picks up a pen instead of a gun and writes a few grand words now and then about how great it would be if somebody else did the rebelling. There’s my two cents on that.

The rebellion Jefferson was talking about in this quote above is not the American revolution, but Shay’s Rebellion. Shay led a bunch of armed citizens on a raid of a federal armory. He gets a lot of credit for moxie, but his rebels got stomped like bugs, and Shay’s Rebellion, instead of warning the country’s rulers not to fuck with armed citizens, pushed them instead in the direction of a stronger federal government. Maybe I’m getting the wrong message here, but I feel like that’s a story you’d want to stay away from if you’re arguing for less government, particularly when, four years later, Washington used his newly-ratified constitutional powers to stomp some more rebels in the Whiskey Rebellion and, not incidentally, make him more badass than before.

It seems to me that armed uprisings aren’t all that Jefferson seems to think they’re cracked up to be. I wonder how he’d feel about rebellions if he’d fought in one? I could be wrong, but maybe he’d have put it the way Major General Smedley Butler did:

War is a racket. It always has been. It is possibly the oldest, easily the most profitable, surely the most vicious. It is the only one international in scope. It is the only one in which the profits are reckoned in dollars and the losses in lives. A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small ‘inside’ group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.

Butler was a badass Marine. And a two-time Medal of Honor winner. And his name was Smedley. Nuff said.

smedley | 8:35 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Sunday, December 23rd, 2012

We got to talking about Wayne LaPierre’s proposal that there ought to be armed guards in every school in the nation, and came up with a little back-of-the-envelope business plan for Nationwide Public School Armed Security Service that just might work because, really, this ought to be done with private security guards. They’re easy to license and, best of all, we could put a lot of combat veterans to work almost immediately because most states accept the military training that veterans received to satisfy the requirements for being an armed guard. Besides, police would be much more expensive to train and payroll.

There are something like a hundred thousand public schools across the land. Some of them are so small they’re probably need only one or two armed guards, but some of them are absolutely huge, big enough to need maybe a dozen or more armed guards. I don’t know what the average would be, but for the sake of argument we’re going to say it would average out to five armed guards in each school any time there were students present. That’s half a million armed guards per shift.

There’d have to be at least two shifts. We’d have an early shift to sweep and secure the school each morning, looking for attackers who might have hidden themselves in the vents or utility closets, and a late shift to stand watch after classes, while the kids are at football practice, playing basketball games, that sort of thing.

In larger schools, it’d probably be prudent to have a third, smaller shift to keep the building secure at night. Let’s say an average of two per school. And we’ll need at least another hundred thousand guards nationwide to cover for the guards who get sick, or need a day off to get the car fixed. Altogether, there’d be an immediate need for at least 1,300,000 armed guards

That many guards working forty hours a week for thirty-six weeks is 1,872,000,000 hours. Private security guards around these parts get about twelve dollars an hour. I imagine they get more in big cities, but it probably averages out to twelve when you include schools way out in the country. If we make them pay for their own uniforms and guns, we can keep the annual payroll under $23 billion.

Add another twenty percent for overhead and we’re up to $27.6 billion … round it up to, say, $30 billion to include the costs of setting the whole thing up. Sounds very doable to me. I can’t imagine that public schools would have any trouble anteing up when the safety of their kids is at stake. And after we put armed guards in every public school and the shooters move on to other crowded places like churches and restaurants, we take ‘public school’ out of the name of our business and branch out. Want to get in on the ground floor? Call me.

The LaPierre Plan | 5:25 pm CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant
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Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

I stayed up way past my bedtime last night watching Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome, a television show so special it went straight to YouTube before they broadcast it on the SyFy Network.

In a few words: Looks great, stupid as hell. Or how about this: War movie cliche mashup in space. And there’s this: Badly written, and the lead actor is a block of wood.

Back to looks great: Really great, if you get off on space ships, and who doesn’t? Stupid people, that’s who. And also, killer robots!

But then, stupid as hell: Space ships in flames. Uh, flames? In space? Well, duh. Looks great, stupid as hell.

And, looks great: Um. Well, space ships, of course, in outer space. And robots. Um. Did I mention outer space?

Back to stupid as hell: Killer robots that lurch and shamble into combat like old-school zombies. Every once in a while one of them squashes an expendable extra, but only because he was too stupid to get out of the way of the killer robot, who snuck up on the humans even though it goes whirrr-whirrr, whirrr-whirrr and CLANK! CLANK! CLANK! with every step.

But I stuck with it to the end, or the almost-end, because there’s one more ten-minute YouTube episode that won’t be released until Friday. I’ll probably watch that, too, even if I have to stay up late.

BSG | 8:55 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, play, television, yet another rant
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Saturday, November 24th, 2012

It appears that my weekend will begin with a plumbing emergency.

After brewing the morning pot o’ coffee, I tramped down the stairs to the basement to check on the two batches of beer that were still happily fermenting away on the work bench. As I passed the basement sink, the dark, wet stain around the drain caught my eye. The only way that stain could be there, I said to myself, is if water came up from the drain. There’s a part of my brain that likes to taunt the rest of me with thoughts like this at early hours of the morning.

I tramped back up the stairs, turned on the faucet in the kitchen and left it running, then went back downstairs. Yep. Water coming up from the drain. Terrific.

So that means I’ll spend an hour or so hauling out the hoses, breaking apart drain pipes, mucking out the sewer stack and getting very, very wet. I hate plumbing emergencies. Hate ’em.

To make the morning even less enjoyable, I seem to have slept with my head cocked at just the right angle to make it impossible for me to turn and look in a certain direction. If I do, one or two of the muscles in my neck threatens to spasm and lock my head permanently cranked all the way around to the right. I’d give all the money in my piggy bank right now for a powerful muscle relaxant, or to have Arnold Schwarzenegger twist my head off the way he’s done to the bad guys in just about every action movie he’s ever been in.

twists | 6:53 am CST
Category: adventures in plumbing, daily drivel, Our Humble O'Bode, yet another rant
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Tuesday, November 13th, 2012

And the greatest arrogance of all: Save the planet! What? Save the planet? We haven’t learned how to care for one another, but we’re going to save the planet? Besides, there is nothing wrong with the planet. The planet is fine! The people are fucked. Compared to the people, the planet is doing great! The planet’s been here four and a half billion years! We’ve been here, what, a hundred thousand, maybe two hundred thousand years? And we’ve only been engaged in heavy industry for a little over two hundred years. The planet has been through a lot worse than us. Been through earthquakes, volcanoes, plate tectonics, solar flares, sunspots, the magnetic reversal of the poles, hundreds of thousands of years of cosmic bombardment by comets, asteroids, meteors, worldwide floods, tidal waves, worldwide fires, erosion, cosmic rays, recurring ice ages … and we think some plastic bags and some aluminum cans are going to make a difference? The planet isn’t going anywhere – we are! We’re going away! The planet will shake us off like a bad case of fleas! The planet will be here for a long, long long time after we’re gone. The air and water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it’s true that plastic is not degradable, well, then the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: The Earth Plus Plastic! The earth doesn’t share our prejudice about plastic. Plastic came out of the earth! The earth probably sees plastic as another one of its children! Could be the only reason it allowed us to spawn in the first place! It wanted plastic. Didn’t know how to make it. Needed us. Could be the answer to that age-old philosophical question: Why Are We Here? Plastic.
 
– George Carlin

 

plastic | 6:00 am CST
Category: Big Book of Quotations, daily drivel, entertainment, play, yet another rant
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Thursday, October 18th, 2012

I watched the presidential debates Tuesday night, not because I was interested in listening to the same old crap coming out of the mouths of the candidates but, honestly, because I felt guilty about not taking a more active part in the democratic process. What did I learn? Something very important, really. It turns out I can’t stand either one of the candidates for president.

This is no surprise, by the way. I did not tune in to the debates thinking that either one of them would change my mind on anything. I’m not likely to vote for the smug, self-important Republican candidate any more than I’m likely to vote for the disconnected, blah blah Democratic candidate. Neither one of the choices who get top billing fire me up, and the other candidates (Quick! Name one!) leave me just as indifferent, but there’s enough of my fifth-grade teacher’s civic pride stuck in my hindbrain to make me feel bad that I don’t at least pretend to pay attention to what’s going on in the national political realm. Also, I knew My Darling B wanted to watch, so I fired up a laptop, found a good live feet on teh intarwebs and plugged in a set of external speakers so we could watch from the sofa with a couple cold beers.

Thank goodness for alcohol, that’s all I’ve got to say.

Is there currently a more uninspiring speaker in the political area, other than Reince Priebus, than our sitting president? This question has come up in every administration since G.H.W. Bush (without the part about the guy with the made-up name) and the answer, every time, has been “no.” Sometimes Mr. Obama can rev up a crowd, but whatever makes the magic happen seems to be dependent on the barometric pressure, or the pizza he ate. The pundits all seem to think he did rather well on Tuesday, but I was watching and it looked to me as if his performance was at best lackluster. If I’d been standing where he was standing I would’ve punched that Romney guy right in the nose on at least three different occasions. Bam! “Who’s a failure now, punk, huh?” If Mr. Obama had done that, I’d respect him a lot more today.

I’ve got to admit, Mr. Gotta Have The Last Word put on a pretty good show. Too bad I can’t believe a single thing he says, because in order to do that he would have to tell us how he thinks he’s going to balance the budget. “I know how to do it,” he kept saying, “I’ve done it before and I can do it again!” But he never explained how he would herd the cats in Congress together to make that happen. Every president since Jimmy Carter has said he’s going to balance the budget, but from what I can remember off the top of my head the only one who pulled off a budget surplus was President Gropius Maximus. I’m pretty sure that was done with smoke and mirrors, though, because how can you balance a trillion-dollar budget? Anything with the word “trillion” in it isn’t a budget. It’s an accounting nightmare.

That wasn’t what bugged me most, though. What bugged me most was the countdown clocks. Did you see the countdown clocks? If you did, would you please tell me what they were for? They didn’t seem to be there for the benefit of the candidates. No matter how bitterly they complained about the other guy’s time, each of them was loath to stop rambling when they could plainly see on any one of the dozen or so clocks in the room that the countdown had reached zero, and the moderator was just as reluctant to mention it to either of them. What were those clocks for? I never did figure it out.

There’s one more presidential debate on the calendar, but I’m not sure that all the beer in Milwaukee would make me feel numb enough to sit through it.

debates | 5:45 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

I would be such a terrible moderator for presidential debates.

“Let’s stay on topic, please.”

“Would you please answer the question, sir?”

“Stick to the facts without trying to spin them, please.”

“Hold on: Do you have any statistics on that?”

“Time, sir.”

“Time, gentlemen.”

“Time, goddammit, time! TIME!”

moderation | 5:39 am CST
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Monday, September 24th, 2012

There’s something so wrong about using the iconic image of Rosie the Riveter to sell crappy beer.

image of an advertisement on a city bus

rosie | 6:09 am CST
Category: beer, current events, daily drivel, food & drink, yet another rant | Tags:
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Saturday, September 22nd, 2012

I got a phone call from a moocher this morning. Stand on a street corner with a cardboard sign, or make the most of technology and call me on the phone; either way, you’re just a moocher if you’re begging me for money.

It was so unusual for the phone to ring any time before nine o’clock that I picked it up, in contravention of my rule never to answer the land-line because only telemarketers call us at that number. We keep a land-line only because I’m stuck in the past and have an old rotary phone. I can dial it, and the handset has the reassuring texture and heft of bakelite that can’t be faked by any plastic phone. Also, it’ll work when the power goes out, and it weighs in at about ten pounds. Clock somebody over the head with that and they’re going down! You may be able to tuck a cell phone in your pocket and use it to make calls from anywhere, but as self-defense weapons they suck.

Anyway, I answered the phone even though I knew in the back of my mind that I really shouldn’t have. The caller asked if My Darling B was home, and I gave the usual response to that question when asked by a voice I wasn’t familiar with: She’s not available right now. May I take a message?

“Are you a member of the household?” There’s another red flag that you’re talking to a telemarketer. But I thought I’d play along with him for the moment, so I said yes.

“Well, then I can direct this call to yourself,” he said cheerily. Sounds like somebody didn’t pay attention in English when they were studying the use of the reflexive, assuming students even study English in school any longer. A lot of the e-mail I get seems to suggest they haven’t for years, or, if they do, the bar is set so low that Tyrion Lannister would have trouble limboing under it. (Geek joke, sorry, couldn’t help myself.)

“I’m calling on behalf of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee,” he began, “and this call will be recorded for training purposes. Did you know that for only twenty-five dollars —”

I stuck with him that long only to make sure I wasn’t missing out on an opportunity to take part in a national poll, which I wouldn’t miss for anything, given they’re much more significant than my one paltry vote. As soon as he flipped up his little cardboard sign (I WORK FOR POLITICIANS PLEASE HELP GOD BLESS), I dropped the handset in the cradle without a word.

You need twenty-five dollars? Go ask your lobbyists.

moocher | 9:51 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, entertainment, messing w/telemarketers, play, yet another rant | Tags:
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Tuesday, September 4th, 2012

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but apparently there’s this election coming up? If you haven’t heard, then I’m just going to assume you don’t have a television or radio and you live miles from anyone who does and you don’t have a car and you never talk to anybody and, as far as you’re concerned, the rest of the world can go to hell and you’re never coming down out of your tree again. Did I get it right? Would you mind if I climbed up into the tree next to yours? Just for a little while. You can show me how to hunt for squirrels and then I’ll go find a tree far away from yours, promise. Just don’t make me stay here and listen to Romney and Obama and Ryan and Whatshisname bicker until November. I can’t take two more months of their crap.

can’t wait till it’s over | 5:35 am CST
Category: current events, daily drivel, yet another rant | Tags:
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Monday, August 20th, 2012

Whoah. What the hell is this? It must be Dr. No’s man cave! Who else but a mad scientist would need to know the time in five time zones as he relaxes in the basement of his volcano island headquarters after a long day of scheming his way towards world domination? Who else but an evil genius would combine indirect fluorescent lighting with recessed multicolored spotlights? Who but the evil Dr. No would even think of setting an ultramodern glass-topped coffee table with chrome legs in a room with a ceiling criss-crossed by faux rough-hewn timbers? And who the hell but a stark-raving lunatic would have a potted fern – a fern! – in his man-cave?

Of course, Dr. No would have done it all in white instead of camel-shit brown, but otherwise it’s evil genius all around.

playground | 5:51 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, play, yet another rant
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Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

image of pint glassesI check out the shelves of the thrift store at Saint Vincent de Paul’s at least once a week. It’s just a few blocks from the office where I work and I need to get out of that office and take a walk every day or my head will asplode and the cleaning crew hates it when that happens, so I wander around the neighborhood. At least once a week, my wanderings take me past St. Vinnie’s, so I stop in.

And a find like the one I found yesterday is exactly why I keep stopping in. There, on the bottom shelf, almost completely hidden behind a row of novelty “pint” glasses with the label of a boring beer emblazoned across them, I could just make out the top of what appeared to be an oversized beer glass, so I stooped over to get a closer look. And a good thing I did, because there were four of them – a set! And they were actual pint glasses, not those fake pints that every hip craft beer brewpub is serving beer in.


image of pint glasses

Do you see the difference? Do you see? The glass on the left is what bars nowadays are calling “pint glasses” and the glass on the right is an actual pint! It holds sixteen ounces of beer or water or other fluid, which is the dictionary effing definition of a pint. Two pints in a quart. Four quarts in a gallon. It’s a measure, it’s not a hip way to describe a beer glass.

If you still doubt, here’s a little experiment you can do the next time you’re in a bar: Order a bottle of beer and ask for a “pint” glass. Most beer comes in twelve-ounce bottles. Pour the beer into the glass. Do you see?

Why am I getting all wrapped around the axle about this? Because in more than one of the bars I’ve visited, the price they charge for bottled beer is less than the price they charge for the same beer served in a “pint” glass. That ain’t right. Also, I’m kind of a didactic asshole. It shouldn’t be called a pint if it’s not.

Anyway, I found these great glasses at St. Vinnie’s and I was really jazzed about it and it turned into a rant. Sorry about that. It jazzed me because I bottle my own beer in pints and for a while all we had in the house were those fake “pint” glasses and I couldn’t pour a whole bottle of beer, so when I finally got my hands on a pair of real pint glasses I felt well and truly chuffed the first time I could pour off a whole bottle of homebrew without mixing any of the yeast at the bottom of the bottle with the clear, delicious brew. And ever since then I’ve been looking for real pint glasses, and that’s why yesterday’s find was so drop-dead awesome. Come by and I’ll pour you a pint.

pints | 6:13 am CST
Category: beer, daily drivel, food & drink, hobby, homebrewing, play, yet another rant
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Monday, June 25th, 2012

The song stuck in my head this morning is Oh What A Night.

I have never liked this song. Never. I loathed it the first time I heard it. Loathed. “Hate” is too weak a word to describe my feelings toward this song. Only loathed comes close.

It’s not that there’s nothing redeeming about the song. The tune is really very catchy, and I rather like the vocals. It’s the words I can’t stand. If Elton John had sung it instead of The Four Seasons so I couldn’t understand any of the words no matter how much I wanted to, my feelings toward it would be a lot different. I’d probably like it, maybe even try to sing along. That will never happen, though, because I can hear all of the words. Every. Single. One.

Tim liked the song until I told him what the words were. That night I not only ruined a song for him, I planted in him the same revulsion that I feel for it. He probably even wants to blow his brains out with a bazooka, just like I do, when it gets stuck on a loop in his head.

Oh, what a night! Late December, back in sixty-three
Got a girl to give it up for me
Boinked her brains out, what a night

You know I didn’t even know her name
Who knew the best sex is anonymous?
Pegged her legless, what a night

I felt a rush and a rolling ball of thunder
This part about his orgasm makes me want to chunder
What a night!

When I read that the musical Jersey Boys was coming to Madison this fall, I was going to talk My Darling B into taking me until I heard an advertisement for it on the radio that featured Oh What A Night. Thinking about it now, I don’t know how I expected they wouldn’t include that craptaculous song. I guess I was just hopeful. Too bad. There’s a show I’ll never see.

craptaculous | 8:01 am CST
Category: daily drivel, entertainment, music, play, show, yet another rant | Tags:
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Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

Hello, and welcome to “Rhetorical Phrases That Have Got to DIE!” Today’s Phrase: “The American People don’t approve of the direction in which the country is heading.”

Hey, American People, guess what? The country is a vast blacktop of rock oozing up from a gash in the earth near Iceland, and it’s unstoppably headed toward a gash in the earth on the Pacific Coast line, where it will be CRUSHED AND SWALLOWED BY THE EARTH! And it doesn’t give a wet slap whether or not you approve.

Wait, that’s not what you meant by that empty, rhetorical phrase?

direction | 5:48 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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What a gorgeous day! I think I’ll get the bike out of the garage and take a long, slow ride through the early morning coolness as the sun slowly rises until I get to an office building that’s hermetically sealed off from fresh air and sunshine and I’ll sit in a little room for nine hours while I shuffle papers and answer phone calls. Yeah, that sounds like the perfect way to experience this beautiful, beautiful day. I can’t wait to get started!

gorgeous | 5:48 am CST
Category: commuting, daily drivel, work, yet another rant | Tags:
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Friday, May 11th, 2012

I’m thinking of opening a store. I would call my store “Dave’s Tough-Shit Store,” because the store’s motto would be, “You think you deserve special treatment? Tough shit.” The motto would be chiseled in stone over the entrance, and over every customer service station you would find it lovingly cross-stitched in crisp linen, framed in gilt oak. All my employees would greet customers with a warm smile and carry out every transaction as professionally as possible, but the moment a customer asked for special treatment of any kind, the employees will smile, point at the motto, wait a moment for the customer to read it, and then ask, “Is there anything else I can do for you?”

That kind of attitude probably won’t bring in as many customers as, say, Wal-Mart gets, but the customers that did come to Dave’s Tough-Shit Store would be the kind of customers I wouldn’t mind having. All the rest can go suck eggs.

tough | 8:26 pm CST
Category: daily drivel, yet another rant
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